Academy by CoinmarketCap explores the past, present and future of Andre Cronje, one of the rockstar developers in DeFi that recently left the industry.
Andre Cronje was to DeFi what LeBron is to the NBA: an undisputed all-time great, no matter what team he plays on.
But let’s step back a minute — after reading all of this, less experienced DeFi investors may be asking themselves:
Who is Andre Cronje, and why should I care that he left the DeFi space?
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How Andre Cronje Arrived in Decentralized Finance
A law graduate from South African Stellenbosch University in 2003, Cronje quickly found his way into information and communications technology after completing school. Surprisingly, his first registered work experience on his LinkedIn was a lecturer position at the Computer Training Institute in South Africa. After completing a 16-month stint there, Cronje moved into IT and held positions at Vodacom, several CTO posts and two stints as a mobile developer.
Cronje in DeFi
One reason why YFI became so popular and traded over $90,000 at some point was — besides the obvious value accrual of the token — that Cronje launched it in a completely decentralized and fair way, without earning a profit on it himself.
Instead of maximizing for liquidity — a great challenge in the oversaturated AMM market — Solidly maximizes for fees. For example, unlike Curve Finance, liquidity providers for Solidly only receive fees from pools they vote for. The protocol-internal competition of offering users the best possible fees acts as a brake on excessive token swap fees.
And that's what may have prompted Cronje to pull the plug.
What Cronje Thought About Building in DeFi
Cronje was often described as an introvert whose personality did not necessarily align with the fast-and-loose mentality of the crypto space:
You could tell as much from his LinkedIn About section:
"There's only one lab accident between me and the supervillain… Honestly, this lab accident really needs to happen soon…"
Another hint was the disclaimer he had on his now-deleted Twitter profile:
"Disclaimer: when I build software, I build it for myself. If you do insist on interacting with it, please use caution, there will be bugs. Interfaces are built to make my life easier. I will make mistakes. If you don't understand it, please don't use it."
"After my initial foray into the DeFi space, I realized that the space seemed to be full of marketing hype and lies, but the core decentralization technology is still strong, and it's here to stay."
He doubled down on that point while on an Erica Kang YouTube show in September 2020 when he likened the DeFi boom in 2020 to the infamous ICO boom in 2017:
"We now feel that DeFi and ICOs are kind of in the same field, but it's not the case, everyone thinks they need a token, so they need a yield farming farm for liquidity mining."
Even when he launched YFI — probably his most popular project — he only half-jokingly described the token as a "totally worthless 0-supply token."
"It's expensive, the community is hostile, the users are entitled."
"No matter what you do, they will be unhappy, and they will make a point of telling you so [...] constantly looking for any bit of information to pick you apart."
"Close to rage quitting again [...] so sick and tired of this space
I just don't get why everyone is so adversarial and targeting my project so much. There are multi-million dollar VC raised projects out there that can all instantly steal funds, there are custodial services lying about being DeFi, there are active scams. And yet here I am, not a single penny raised, building on my own, and I just get attacked 24/7."
Cronje's Departure From DeFi
The proverbial bomb exploded on Mar. 6 when Anton Nell, Cronje's long-standing colleague at the Fantom Foundation, announced that Cronje and himself were leaving the crypto space effective immediately:
The real bombshell here is, of course, the termination of the services and apps that Cronje and Nell were involved in. Even though Fantom CEO Michael Kong later clarified that the projects were not being shut down entirely, the market reaction was predictably bearish.
However, the market is one thing, and the community is another thing. With Cronje playing such an influential role in DeFi, the reaction was predictably strong. The DeFi Edge, a popular analyst account, alleged that the latest drama around Daniele Sestagalli, Cronje's partner in the Solidly Exchange project, and its botched launch may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
“Andre is an impressive deep thinker with big questions,” the source said. “He is an important and positive influence…his departure will have an impact.”
And even though Cronje did break up with DeFi twice already, Nell was fairly confident that this one may be for good:
The DeFi Edge did not agree with him, as his intuition tells him that builders like Cronje will always come back to their passion:
No matter how things turn out, Cronje's impact on DeFi was so significant that listing all the projects he worked on would merit a category of its own. Whether he comes back — possibly as an anon — or not, Cronje did make DeFi a better place. His developer skills and thoughtful approach will be missed.